Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #46

TITLE: Where There Were Deserts, I Saw Fountains

Joni Margulis fiddled with her camera, attaching it to a wooden railing. Down the hill below her was the Schuylkil River winding its way past Boathouse Row to center city Philadelphia. Behind her was the art museum, rose-colored in the light of the setting spring sun. At her feet was her dog, Grendel, big and brown, slobbering over a tennis ball she had been chasing for the last ten minutes. And hastily taped to a nearby bench, unnoticed by Joni or Grendel or the tourists wandering about, was an envelope containing a photo of Joni, dead.

Joni stared at the screen of her camera.

Aiming at the river, Joni saw a few dozen people on the patio by the water. She muttered to herself. Crowds had been gathering ever since someone had taken a blurry cell phone picture of something in the water. It might have been a large aquatic monster, it might have been a trick of the shadows, or it might have just been a doctored photograph. Joni was certain the last was true. The local media, however, had decided it was clearly a monster and had even dubbed it “Schuylkill Sally.” It annoyed Joni no end. Each day tourists walked over from the Rocky statute, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sally. Even worse was that Kelly, her best friend and next-door neighbor, was obsessed with the alleged creature. Kelly had been at the river mere moments before the incident occurred and now she would talk of nothing else.


  1. Hiya, the envelope with the ppicture of her dead is a definite hook. However, I'm not really engaging with this opening.

    There's a lot of description in the opening which feels a little dumped onto me, as Joni isn't really doing anything.

    What's more, this monster idea is interesting but it's still just more info. I sort of wish something would happen -- someone would talk, or that hook would be picked up somehow.

    Finally, I find the POV a little strange. It jarred me a little to be told of the envelope before Joni knows about it, as this doesn't read omniscient to me.

    It's possible that I'm just not your target audience, although if nothing else I am a big fan of YA SFF.

    Again, excellent hooks, just a little bogged down for me.

  2. I also agree w/ Vicorva that the first paragraph is a description dump. Don't get me wrong, you have great descriptions, but they need to be sprinkled into the story gradually rather than all at once. And the line about the photograph of her dead self feels really out of place.

    However, I enjoyed the last paragraph, when I finally caught a glimpse of your voice. Perhaps you can consider starting your story there.

  3. I agree with the other comments. I would almost like to begin with para 3 because I'm getting to know the MC. The dead picture of her in the envelope is a definite hook, and a little more explanation on that will keep me reading more!

  4. I also agree with the other comments. Lots of nice description, but how does it factor into the story/plot? Though I think the picture in the envelope is intriguing, there is only really one sentence (I'm sure it's important later), and because we don't really know the MC, it doesn't have the impact that perhaps it should.

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  7. I'm slightly confused with the photo of her dead--I think if you presented it a little differently it might be more engaging and less confusing. Perhaps introducing just a sentence or two about whether or not Joni knows about the photo (it says unnoticed, but she might have forgotten about it), or perhaps a more descriptive line about what the photo captures--is it joni's corpse? a picture of her that somebody as edited to make her appear dead?

  8. There is so much going on here I'm not sure what to be interested in. It's like a movie which, after I watch for five minutes, causes me to lean over and whisper, "No who was that again?"

    I love the photograph, though I agree with other commenters about the POV problem. I also dig the river monster. I think other details can wait a tad longer with you grab me with those elements.

    I'm intrigued. Good luck!

  9. I was concerned about the photo as well. It was definitely interesting, but since Joni isn't techinically aware of it, isn't this author intrusion? Everything I've ever read says this is a big no no and can prevent your story, interesting as it is, from being publishable.

  10. Lots of information in the beginning, but I have to agree with the others, its info dump. The picture caught me by surprise. What did the picture have to do with the scene?

  11. Like everyone else I'm both intrigued and confused by the picture in the envelope.

    I'd thought the beginning seemed to be from Joni's POV (in 3rd) but the mention of the envelope makes it clear it's not. And, aside from this one hook, the rest is kind of slow.

    I'm not feeling how the specifics of the location are so important that they have to be the first thing we read about. I kind of feel that most of that first paragraph could go. Open with the search for the river-monster and Joni's skepticism and less scene-setting.

  12. Gotta agree with most of the comments. The photo of her dead when she's obviously alive is a compelling idea... but the delivery was just very jarring and confusing.

    I was sort of into the idea of a sea monster story, but there's a lot of description here and I'm losing the thread of connection to the character until toward the end.